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Obama's Last Stand Against War on Syria

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Joe Lauria       (Page 1 of 6 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment

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President Barack Obama in the Oval Office.
President Barack Obama in the Oval Office.
(Image by White House photo)
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Through five years of war in Syria, President Obama has been in a constant internal struggle with hawks in his administration who want the U.S. to directly intervene militarily to overthrow the Syrian government.

On at least four occasions Obama has stood up to them, although at other times he has compromised and gone half way toward the hawkish position. Now, with less than three months to go in office, Obama appears to be leaving his Syria policy to those aligned with the lead hawk who might soon take Obama's place.

As Secretary of State until early 2013, Hillary Clinton failed to convince Obama to consistently take a tough line on Syria. She wanted him to realize her two main policies, which she still clings to: a "safe zone" on the ground and a "no-fly zone" in the air -- meaning that Syrian government forces and their allies, including the Russians, would be barred from operating in those areas.

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Protected by U.S. air power and other military means, rebels seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would, in effect, have an untouchable staging area to launch attacks on the government without its ability to hit back. Clinton has called removing Assad a top foreign policy priority.

Clinton followed a similar model in 2011 when she convinced a reluctant Obama to adopt a plan in Libya to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi under the pretext of "protecting civilians" when Gaddafi launched an offensive against rebels in eastern Libya whom he identified as terrorists. After the U.S. and European military intervention, Gaddafi was ousted, tortured and murdered -- prompting Clinton to quip "we came, we saw, he died" -- but the "regime change" turned Libya into a failed state.

Indeed, the Libyan chaos -- now with three rival governments and terrorist enclaves -- has become emblematic of the disarray following "regime change" that has marked nearly two decades of neoconservative influence in Washington, a strategy of dividing and weakening defiant states while U.S. contractors profit from the chaos that bleeds the locals to death.

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Lost Lessons

Obama learned from Libya, which he deemed his biggest regret for having no plan for the aftermath. The fiasco left him deeply skeptical about intervention in Syria, although -- given his prescient opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq -- he should have already understood what happens after the U.S. overthrows regimes these days.

In the early years of the CIA -- in Syria in 1949, Iran in 1953, and Guatemala in 1954, as illegal and as unjustified as those coups were -- the agency had viable leaders groomed to take over. But all that changed after the Cold War ended. Then careless wishful thinking -- or intended chaos -- replaced any careful planning for the future of the countries that were at the receiving end of "regime change."

"We can use our military in the Middle East and the Soviets won't stop us," arch-neocon Paul Wolfowitz boasted before the Iraq invasion.

Today neoconservatives and liberal interventionists (such as Clinton) act like gamblers who can't leave the table. Disasters for Iraqis, Libyans and others haven't dissuaded these American war advocates from pushing more chips onto the table over Syria. Indeed, their failures -- and the lack of any personal accountability for their catastrophes -- seem to have only emboldened them to keep gambling.

These "regime change" schemes -- in the guise of "spreading democracy" in the Middle East -- have only spread chaos and terrorism, but those conditions give the hawks more reasons and excuses to intervene, thus creating more chaos and making more money, while weakening nations defying Washington.

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Clinton began laying a bet on "regime change" in Damascus by pushing to arm rebels in the summer of 2012. One of her leaked emails explains her motive: to break up the Teheran to Damascus to southern Lebanon supply line to Hezbollah -- a longstanding Israeli objective.

At that point, Obama refused to arm the rebels, but the President apparently didn't have full control over his national security bureaucracy, which seemed to have found ways to aid the Syrian rebels despite Obama's reluctance, possibly by encouraging U.S. regional allies, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Israel.

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Joe Lauria has been a independent journalist covering international affairs and the Middle East for more than 20 years. A former Wall Street Journal United Nations correspondent, Mr. Lauria has been an investigative reporter for The Sunday Times (more...)
 

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